Prep football: Marquette takes big lead, then fights off Traverse City Central comeback attempt

MARQUETTE – What appeared to be a rout in the making turned out to be a nail-biter for the Marquette Senior High School football team Friday night.

Leading Traverse City Central 14-0 in the first quarter and 21-0 at the half, the Redmen wound up having to fight off the Trojans, 31-23, in the season-opening game for both schools.

Marquette senior quarterback Brett Place completed 11 of 18 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was senior wide receiver Kurt Burmeister, who caught seven passes for 151 yards and two scores.

“It was a total team effort and I’m excited for the guys in getting their first win of the season,” MSHS head coach Dave L’Huillier said. “It was really important to come out fast.”

The Redmen scored twice in the first quarter, with Burmeister catching TD passes of 39 and 31 yards on the same called play.

“It was a bench fade and I ran it both times. I got a free outside lane on both,” Burmeister said. “(Brett and I) just started clicking.

“I’ve been working hard all summer on my routes and timing after blowing out a knee last season.”

Said Trojans’ head coach Tom Passinault: “When you have a good quarterback and a good receiver at the high school level, they’re difficult to stop. We don’t have the time to prepare the defensive backfield like colleges and the pros.

“To their credit, those two kids really tore us up.”

A 46-yard interception return by Brett Beauchamp helped the Redmen make it 21-0 at the half when Place went over from the two just three plays later.

“In the first half, we played some crisp football,” L’Huillier said. “We took care of the ball.

“But in the second half, we didn’t. We fumbled twice early and lost both.”

The Trojans capitalized, scoring on a 6-yard pass from QB Sean Williams to wide receiver Zach Egbert, then getting a 40-yard field goal from Jake Gorter when the MSHS defense stiffened.

MSHS senior tight end Gabe Apple caught an 11-yard TD pass from Place to make it 28-10.

But on the first play from scrimmage that followed as Ethan Campbell raced 68 yards for a score to cut the TC Central deficit to 28-16.

Max Bednarek nailed a 27-yard field goal to give the Redmen a seemingly safe 31-16 lead with 4:48 remaining.

The Trojans wouldn’t quit, however. Anthony Kratovil ran back the kickoff some 50 yards and Campbell – after runs of 15 and eight yards – scooted 6 yards for a TD to make it 31-23.

The latter finished with 123 yards rushing on 13 carries.

“Some of our running plays worked when (Marquette) got gassed,” Passinault said. “Marquette certainly deserved to win the game, but we competed. I’m proud of the boys, but disappointed in the loss.”

The Trojans got one last chance to tie the score, getting the ball at their own 31 with 2:23 left. But after gaining eight yards on two runs, TC Central failed to complete two passes to lose the ball on downs.

“The defense stepped up,” L’Huillier said, noting senior linebacker Shane Duquette led the Redmen with 12 tackles to go along with 1 1/2 sacks. Senior linebacker Apple added nine tackles and senior linebacker Larry Burnette chipped in 2 1/2 sacks.

“There were some huge stops by the defense in the first half, but in the second, our offense put the defense in some bad situations.

“We have to shore up our running game, but we spread the ball to five different receivers.,” L’Huillier added. “And the offensive line did a good job in pass protection.”